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life, but faked. every wonder how they get those remarkable shots in nature documentaries? tonight, the inside story on how many of them are staged, down to artificial calves and trained animal stand-ins. an industry whistle blower tells all. plus, the plot. as the eiffel tower's evacuated due to a bomb threat, new commando-style raids across the u.s. and europe. brian ross has the latest. and, wrestle mania. they've kicked, jumped and flipped their way into the hearts of millions of americans. now, pro wrestling hat its sights set on a really big audience. and that's a "sign of the times." >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city,
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this is "nightline," september 28th, 2010. >> good evening, i'm cynthia mcfadden. we begin tonight with a shocking look behind some of the most popular nonfiction films of our time. nature documentaries. these films seek to deliver a sense of wonder at the quirkry private behavior of some of the colorful characters in the animal kingdom. the problem, according to a long-time industry veteran we interviewed tonight, is that some of the most incredible scenes are 100% fake. john donvan has our report. >> reporter: animals on the screen. we love them. beethoven in the movie of that name. lassi, in the classic tv show. and then, of course, there is flipper. all of whom were, we knew, essentially actors, trained animal performers following a script. but animals on screen this way, in the wild life documentary --
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and this is disney's 1958 "child wilderness," what made it so dazzling, and what made later films like "wolves" so enchanting, was the sheer wonder of seeing animals wild. in a world with such much accidental beauty, like this aunting image of an underseas bone yard. >> except that we put it there. >> reporter: and as we journey along with these creatures, wait -- what did he say? >> we put it there. >> reporter: he's talking about that whale skull on the sea bottom. >> we had a scientist who had this skull, and we asked him if he would bring it and we put it at the bottom of the sea. >> reporter: and back in the "wolves" movie, that dead animal the whole pack is feeding on? >> we found a dead animal. there's lots of road kill around. and so we put it there and -- >> reporter: you hauled that animal there -- >> we did, to that place.
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and often in this situation, we didn't do it here, but often in this type of situation, people who manage these animals will put m&ms or something tasty in the inards of a -- >> reporter: m&ms stuffed animal? >> to make the animals feed on it. >> reporter: oh, no. oh, yes, says chris palmer. >> these wildlife films, too many of them involves deceptions, manipulation, misrepresentations, fraudulence, and the audience doesn't know. >> reporter: and who is chris palmer to say that filmmakers have been faking? well, he was the producer of "whales" and executive produce of "wolves" and "bears." he's pointing fingers -- even at himself. >> after 30 years in this business, i have come to -- and i've been part of that problem. >> reporter: because, this family subsisting on the side of an unforgiving mountain, their
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only refuge, this den dug out of hard earth -- well, these animals aren't actually from around there. >> what is happening in reality is, those wolves are captive. they are from a game farm. >> reporter: they don't live there? >> they don't live there. >> reporter: this is -- it's represent a wolf. oh, one more thing. the den dug out of hard earth? >> it's artificial. >> reporter: you built this? >> in order to get a camera in there, the wolf is whused to th camera, this is all made up. >> reporter: there was a notice included in the movie, it came at the end of the movie, saying that captive animals were in the movie. >> but who reads that? there was no indication watching the film that those are wild wolves. everybody would think they were watching wild wolves. >> reporter: yes, they would indeed. and how disillusioning to be shown this illusion.
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it's heartbreaking, because you played on our heart-strings so much, to make us care. >> reporter: but palmer says it's not all that new. "child wilderness" won an oscar. but this famous scene of lemmings committing suicide was outed as a fake years ago. those lemmings were hurled off those clutches by the filmmakers. lemming suicide is a myth. >> lots of deceptions going on. and the reason i've written a book is to launch a campaign around the world to ask whether it's right. why would you make a film like that? >> reporter: palmer now heads the center for environmental film making that he founded at american university at washington. he tries to teach ethical film making but concedes the reason he's cut corners over the years is simple. it's money. >> when you're under that pressure and money is running out and the weather is closing
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in, ethics is the last thing on your mind. you are after that shot. >> reporter: so, you bring your own wolves, you know you'll get the shot. and if you can tug at the viewer's heart-strings, you know you'll get the ratings. if the industry went completely, completely honest by the way you describe honest, would the movies get really boring? >> i think you can do it, but it take as lot of creativity, a lot of hard work. >> reporter: but just not too much creativity. part of this is up to those that eat this stuff up. you watch "whales" and you get wrapped up in the struggle of this pair, misty and echo, mother and child. but how do they know their names? >> we made them up. >> reporter: and you see misty and echo set off on a journey of thousands of miles to reach their feedings grounds in alaska and it makes it seem like they might not make it. >> some of the whales i've gotten to know have never returned. >> and the film items how they overcome amazing obstacles and
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challenges from killer whales, from impacts from ships, from drift nets and so on. our ship goes up to alaska, we're waiting for them there and will we see them? and the music swells and the audience is thrilled that misty and echo have arrived safely. >> then, the moment they had hoped for. by sheer luck, they spot a calf with familiar markings. it's echo. >> whew. that is pretty dramatic. one problem, though. >> reporter: the point is, we made that up. the mother and calf we see arriving in alaska is not the same animals that we saw leaving in hawaii. >> reporter: reason? they had no means or money for tracking two whales at ocean depths for 3,000 miles. still, it feels good that misty and echo or whoever they are finally make iter or seem to. can we not care about the animals if we don't give them human names? >> it is easier to care about
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animals if you give them names. and this is a big debate in science. jane goodall named her chimps and she was criticized for that. but look at the incredible good that she's done. >> reporter: and that's the other side of the argument. the fake stuff, and it's usually only a fraction of any movie, it helps us to care, inspiring awe, even love. putting us on the side of the animals, which is why he makes films himself. so, in his movie "bears," yes, it's true, not all the animals are wild -- they got there that day by truck, essentially. >> yeah, yes. >> reporter: and it's true there was a trainer offscreen in this scene telling the animals what to do. >> they are trained through being fed, rewarded with m&ms and food. >> but you do end up really liking bears, caring about them. the same thing with the wolves. some argue using captive animals actually spares truly wild animals the trauma, disruption
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and danger that comes with human contact. chris palmer concedes that point. chris, i get the feeling that you are torn about this, that there is -- there is an argument to be made that for the greater good, you can tell a little lie here and there in a movie. >> yes, yeah. i think you could make the argument that this is okay, because the film is going to do a lot of good. it's going to promote c conservati conservation. animals won't really be harmed. we won't really be disturbing wild animals. maybe it's worth it to have told the lie. >> reporter: keep it real. that's all chris palmer is really saying, about one of the oldest forms of reality programming. i'm john donvan for "nightline" in washington. >> the dirty secrets of some nature programming. when we come back, a look at the details of an alleged new terrorist plot against targets
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code with a 23% sales tax and eliminate the mortgage interest deduction. a bush tax panel said families would pay $6,000 more a year. a reagan tax advisor calls it a very dumb idea. but that's not his only bad idea. harris was the only senator to vote against expanding the child care tax credit and against the state's cancer treatment program. andy harris' extreme ideas will cost us. we turn now to national security and the disturbing news tonight of a potential new threat from an al qaeda linked terrorist network. while the details of the plot are unclear, a u.s. law enforcement official compared the threat to the mumbai terrorist assault of nearly two years ago. a coordinated, commando-style shooting and bombing attack on multiple targets.
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brian ross is here tonight with the report. brian? >> reporter: cynthia, senior u.s. and european officials tell abc news tonight there is a credible threat of a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks against france, germany, britain and possibly the u.s. the official said no specific time or place was known, but that the plot had been detected after the capture this summer of a radicalized german citizen who reportedly has been training with others in pakistan, now a wor worldwide manhunt is under way and europe is on high alert. tonight, in paris, police evacuated the eiffel tower, for the second time in two weeks, after a bomb threat was called in. no bomb was found today, but officials in france are taking no chances, given what they believe is a very real threat. "we currently reached the spike in a threat of an attack that is unquestionable," the head of the french national police said last
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week. "as i people to you at this moment, there is a specific threat against french interests," he added. this threat is coming from pakistan, according to intelligence officials. in large part from the contingent of german citizens, who have been recruited for a jihad against the west over the last four years. >> some german converts, many are turks, many are arabs, and right now, we already have the first afghans and even iranians in these circles. it's a very mixed bunch of different people, quite internationalalist, quite like everything we have seen in europe in recent years. >> reporter: dozens of germans have been identified as attending terror training camps, producing videos in german to gain more recruits for their radical views. >> they want to get the training in pakistan. many are killed. but those who come back are a threat. and they are a threat not only
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to germany, but also to our allies and especially the u.s., because they are extremely anti-american. >> reporter: german officials say some of the recruits actually came from the same mosque in hallburg where the 9/11 hijackers gathered, apparently continuing as a center of jihad aimed at the u.s. >> and that is quite shocking. so, there is a certain amount of continuity in german jihadism. >> reporter: the hallburg mosque was closed in early august, just after officials first learned of this latest alleged plot. "young people are groomed for the so-called holy war," a german official said in announcing the closure. "we can't accept this happening right in the middle of hamburg. and that's why we have closed this mosque today and banned the cultural association," he said. officials believe one team of german jihadists was dispatched to europe over the summer, traveling on german passports, which require no visa to enter the u.s.
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>> the american authorities are extremely nervous about what is going on. the germans are extremely about what is going on. >> reporter: with fears of an attack, similar to what happened in mumbai india two years ago. u.s. law enforcement officials say the captured german said the new attack would be a commando-style raid against what were described as soft or economic targets. the attacks in mumbai were against hotels, free kwepted by tourists. >> we are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats. >> reporter: it was just last week that u.s. officials alluded to the new threat, without giving the details of why that are by so concerned. >> despite the significant pressure abroad, al qaeda continues to be committed to high profile attacks directed at the west including plans against europe, as well as the homeland. >> reporter: all of this helps to explain the dramatic increase
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in the u.s. air strikes with drones near the pakistani and afghan border. at least 70 attacks this year alone with new ones attacked each day, as david petraeus explained to martha raddatz. >> the safe havens, again, there will have to be more done about them. >> reporter: and you're putting pressure on. >> there will have to be more pressure on them, no question. >> reporter: especially in light of one other claim by the captured german. that this plot was personally approved by osama bin laden, an indication, if true, that he is still alive and still directly involved in trying to attack the west in a spectacular way. u.s. officials said tonight the threat is considered current and active, and intelligence officials in europe and the u.s. are in constant contact and that president obama has been fully briefed on the threat. cynthia? >> a most sobering report. our thank, brian. when we come back, we take a
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with cynthia mcfadden. >> ah, a turn to professional wrestling. the bodies are so abused and the plot lines are so dramatic, it all makes daytime television look predictable and tame. but can professional wrestling appeal to audiences outside the u.s.? well, turns out it already does. including in the one country with the largest potential audience of all. for clarissa ward, that's a "sign of the times."
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>> reporter: they are the kings of choreographed combat. the masters of muscle. the superstars of sports entertainment. they have kicked, jumped and flipped their way into the hearts of millions of americans. their outrageous plot lines are broadcast in 145 countries in 35 different languages. >> with over 70,000 wwe fans. >> reporter: and they've done it all in spandex. but now, wrestling behemoth wwe is trying to sell its muscle-hugging magic to a new market -- china, with a potential 1.3 billion fans. and their hosting their first ever live show here at the shanghai world expo. one of the few groups from the u.s. invited to perform, they are ambassadors of american culture. some of the biggest names have
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flown in for the event, like seven foot giant big show and ray mysterio. it's fair to say these guys don't blend, but they certainly inspire curiosity. >> are you laughing at my hands? >> reporter: yeah, i just -- i mean -- >> huge. >> reporter: i feel like i have really big hands anyway, but -- >> no, you don't. >> reporter: but those are some -- wow. >> i got to be really careful, if i go to picnics and stuff because people try to stick my fingers in a bun, you know? >> reporter: think of china and sports and kung if you or ping-pong probably jump to mind before wrestling. while the nba is hugely popular here, major league baseball and the nfl have not been so successful. wwe began flooding the chinese market a few years ago. their programming is now available in 90 million households across the country. and they're confident their
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simple storylines can transcend cultural distances. >> strength of it is, it's a fizzingly told story. even if you turn the sound down when watching wwe, you can follow what's going on. it's not rocket science. >> reporter: wwe turns out ten hours of television a week, packed with lovable heroes and hatable villains, like superstar chris jericho. >> very exciting, because what's the crowd going to be like? are they going to cheer, be reserved, scares? >> reporter: and the morning of the big show, all 8,000 tickets are snapped by. they have come from all over the country. >> my name is andy, i come from hong kong. >> reporter: and they are clearly excited for the show. >> wwe is my life! yeah! >> reporter: one, two, three -- backstage, the soup per stars give interviews to a seemingly enamored chinese media. and i have a few moments to learn some of the se credits to
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becoming a superstar. physical fitness. oh, dear. oh, crikey. and a sharp tongue. how can i up my smack talk. >> what kind of accent is that? is that fake? >> reporter: you are talking smack? >> are you from illinois and now -- >> you're playing a mind game. >> reporter: by the end of the interview, my villain diva alter' go is starting to emerge. well, my friend lives down the street. oh, in your face. >> she got me there. >> reporter: and then it show time. the lights go down, the music goes up and the crowd goes wild. i think they're having fun. they seem to be enjoying themselves. they know all the moves and all the stars. >> cena! >> reporter: and they love to hate. >> you suck! you suck! >> reporter: and while the crowd of 8,000 isn't quite yankee
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stadium -- >> number one! >> reporter: it's a promising start. wwe may not have china in a choke hold yet, but they are definitely in it to win it. for "nightline," i'm clarissa ward in shanghai. >> some potential for real cross cultural exchange there. when we come back, obama rallies young voters, and that's the subject of tonight's closing argument. but first, jimmy kimmel with what's coming up next. >> jimmy: tonight, dane cook, music from maroon five, adam levin does pop a shot, and yehya visits the act tocto-mom. "jimmy kimmel li old gibbs canning company.
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